Be careful about who you invest your emotions in while watching “Bereavement.” You may just find yourself in mourning.
That is because the new horror flick is as about as brutal as they get, leaving the viewer feeling sick to his or her stomach. “Bereavement” is a stunning achievement for the genre, though, thanks to its insistence upon breaking just about every rule in the book. The movie’s only failing is its unusually deliberate pace that replaces scares with shock.
At the start of the film, a 6-year-old boy named Martin Bristol (Spencer List) is kidnapped from his backyard swing in Minersville, Pa, by a psychotic recluse named Graham Sutter (Brett Rickaby). Sutter keeps Martin imprisoned on his derelict pig farm, forcing him to witness and participate in the torture and murder of young women.
The story picks up again a few years later as 17-year-old Allison Miller (Alexandra Daddario) comes to live with her Uncle Jonathan (Michael Biehn). While exploring her new surroundings, Allison catches a glimpse of Martin in the one of the windows of Sutter’s farmhouse, prompting her to investigate and therefore become the psychopath’s latest victim.
“Bereavement” actually a prequel to writer/director Stevan Mena’s 2004 horror flick “Malevolence” and the second in a planned trilogy of films – the last one of which is already in pre-production. Having seen “Malevolence” will certainly increase one’s appreciation for the events that unfold in “Bereavement” but it is by no means a required precursor.
Mena has crafted a great-looking motion picture that succeeds primarily on atmosphere but also because of the way the story resolves concludes. That is to say that “Bereavement” is a sincerely spine-tingling experience that will eventually leave your bottom jaw glued to the ground with its sheer savagery. In other words, Mena takes no prisoners.
However, Mena does hold back in terms of explanation. Perhaps it is because “Bereavement” is ultimately only one-third of a much larger story but the filmmaker fails to get inside of his killer’s mind enough to satisfy our curiosity. On the other hand, Rickaby is fantastic in the role of Sutter, single-handedly humanizing someone who is essentially inhumane.
On a final note, one should not anticipate many scares while watching “Bereavement.” Then again, perhaps this story is not so much about scares as it is awe and an underlying feeling of dread. Still, horrorholics are likely to miss the genre’s most essential element as they impatiently wait for the plot to play out in seemingly slow motion.
“Bereavement” (R – 103 minutes) is now available on Blu-ray and DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley.
Listen to Joseph J. Airdo’s “Movie Maverick” radio segment, every Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. during “The Daily Blender with Jeffry O’Brien” on KBSZ – NBC 1260 AM and 96.1 FM.